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Mon, 28 September 2020

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Hundreds of billions earmarked for ‘levelling-up’ projects could be squandered without better co-ordination, say MPs

Hundreds of billions earmarked for ‘levelling-up’ projects could be squandered without better co-ordination, say MPs

The cross-part group of MPs is calling on the Government to explain what 'levelling up' means (PA)

3 min read

The Government risks squandering hundreds of billions of pounds earmarked for infrastructure projects unless there is better local coordination, according to a cross-party group of MPs.

A senior Tory is calling for residents to be consulted at "a much earlier stage" and on ministers to properly explain what it means by its "levelling up" mantra.

The recommendations come in a report by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC), which warns without long-term tracking of performance and greater transparency over delivery a string of high-profile schemes will not deliver value for money.

The Government promised to invest £640billion in projects across the UK in the wake of the election, with a £5bn package of Coronavirus “bounce back” spending also earmarked.

The PACAC report says: “At present the overall aims of this significant boost in infrastructure spending remain ill-defined. 

“The Government must clarify what it means by ‘levelling up’ and set out a coherent plan for co-ordinated infrastructure investment that will deliver defined long-term benefits at a local and national level. 

“Greater detail must also be provided on the data that will be used to assess performance, including how this will be recorded and published.”

The committee is also calling for the long-awaited National Infrastructure Strategy to be published as soon as possible, and before more money is assigned to any new projects. 

And its chairman, Conservative MP William Wragg, said more engagement is needed with the public at the local level about infrastructure.

"It will be critical not just to get local support for infrastructure projects, but getting local input in identifying problems and developing solutions must be better supported and become a feature of programme development at a much earlier stage,” he said.

"Investing time at the outset to make sure everyone is clear about the aims and proposed benefits, alongside a change in the culture of how major projects are developed and managed, should mean that this transformative change is achievable."

Mr Wragg also urged the Government to be clearer on what its goals are, adding: "Developing grand infrastructure projects must not become an end in itself and we must move away from the short-term view that measures the value of major projects in terms of whether they are finished on time and at the expected cost.

"As the nation embarks on a period of significant infrastructure spending, we must focus on how much they deliver the benefits they set out to achieve and were the basis for being given the go-ahead.”

In response Cllr David Renard from the Local Government Association said: “The Committee is absolutely right to say the Government’s infrastructure projects need to be more responsive to local need, with local support and local input.

“To do this the Government should engage with councils on projects at the earliest stage, to ensure the voice of local communities is heard.”

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